It’s hard to get out of a bad relationship. People can’t admit that it’s time to say goodbye.
Countries have the same problem. The United States has spent decades collecting allies, like many people accumulate Facebook “Friends.”
After Valentine’s Day, Washington should send the equivalent of a “Dear John” letter to at least a half-dozen foreign capitals. Where to start:
Saudi Arabia and America have little in common other than commerce in oil. Essentially a totalitarian state, the monarchy plunders people, brutalizes political opposition, suppresses religious expression, and even exports Sunni tyranny.
But no alliance is necessary for the two states to cooperate when their interests coincide. It’s time to send Riyadh a text message breaking up. The two governments still should cooperate where appropriate, but the U.S. military no longer should act as an inexpensive bodyguard for the al-Saud family.
The United States was drawn into war in Korea during the Cold War. Then American troops were required on the peninsula until South Korea gained both political stability and economic development.
By the 1980s the South had raced well ahead of the North economically. Today South Korea enjoys a 40–1 economic lead, 2–1 population edge, vast technological advantage, and overwhelming diplomatic support.
The South can defend itself. Other forms of cooperation could be conducted without a “Mutual Defense Treaty” that would be mutual in name only.
The George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq was based on a number of costly illusions. The rise of the Islamic State was blowback after the U.S. invasion triggered a bitter sectarian war.
The two countries do not share values. Nor is there much strategic agreement. The relationship always will be one of convenience.
Joining with Baghdad has entangled the United States in a bitter sectarian war. Better to make the relationship purely transactional when advantageous for America.
The Baltic Trio
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania live in a bad neighborhood. But Washington has forgotten what alliances are supposed to be.
In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. created NATO as a shield behind which Western Europe could revive. With the end of the Cold War the alliance lost its purpose. Bringing in the Baltics added countries that are security black holes—weak states with minimal military capability but potential conflicts with Russia.
America’s real problem is NATO. Washington should drop out of the alliance, forging a set of more limited military cooperation agreements with the European Union and leading European nations.
America long has had a tortured relationship with this semi-failed Pacific state. The Philippines has sputtered through dictatorship and corrupt and incompetent democracy. Manila’s military reflects this flawed foundation. Yet the Philippines wants to challenge China over territory in the South China Sea.
More accurately, Manila wants the United States to do so. But Washington has little interest in local territorial disputes. "Dear Manila," should run the letter written by President Barack Obama.
Technically Kiev is not a U.S. ally, but the administration and the usual gaggle of hyper-hawks want to treat Ukraine as one. And the government in Kiev wants to be treated like one.
Ukraine was dealt a tough hand by history and geography. But it never mattered much to America. The United States signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum after Ukraine divested its nuclear weapons, but the agreement offered only platitudes.
The Obama administration’s promotion of last year’s street putsch backfired disastrously on both America and Ukraine, encouraging Russia to sever Crimea and back separatists in the Donbas. Ukraine always will matter more to Moscow, which will pay far higher costs and take far greater risks to prevail.
The United States should make clear that Kiev will never be in NATO. There will never be American troops in Ukraine. Washington will not give weapons to Kiev.
As I point out on National Interest online: “America long has had trouble saying no. But the U.S. should start dropping faux allies. Doing so is far more likely to increase American security than extending new commitments and guarantees to additional weak and unimportant states.”